The ruling Dutch minority government is on the brink of collapse after anti-EU lawmaker Geert Wilders torpedoed seven weeks of austerity talks, saying he would not cave in to budget demands from ‘dictators in Brussels’. New national elections that will be a referendum on the Netherlands’ relationship with Europe and its ailing single currency are now all but certain. But before Prime Minister Mark Rutte can tender his resignation – possibly as early as Monday – he must consult with allies and opposition parties on how to run a caretaker government that will have to make important economic decisions in the coming weeks and months. ‘Elections are the logical next step,’ Rutte said.
Opposition leader Diederik Sansom of the Labor Party joined others across the political spectrum in calling for new elections as soon as possible. ‘In the meanwhile, we in parliament will take responsibility for a careful budget in 2013,’ he said.
Austerity talks began in early March after the Dutch economy sank into recession and forecasts showed the 2012 budget deficit will reach 4.6 per cent – well above the three per cent limit mandated by European rules. Dutch politicians have strongly demanded that Greece and other countries meet that target.
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